I’ll be honest… and this came as a bit of a surprise for me… there is so much more to Koh Samui than beaches and bars full of old men… (but trust me here – there are also gorgeous beaches and plenty of old men in bars…) In this guide, I am going to help you know how to spend a week in Koh Samui.
Getting to Koh Samui
Koh Samui is an hour’s flight from Bangkok, but you don’t have to fly to Koh Samui. The amazing thing about Thailand is that there are so many travel opportunities to get anywhere you can imagine. And getting to Koh Samui from Bangkok is easy. Besides flying you can take a train and ferry or bus and ferry (the cheapest option). So depending on your budget and timeline, you can really make your way to Koh Samui any way you like!
I’ve done it two ways. The first time I visited Koh Samui I flew from Bangkok and the second time I actually took the bus from Bangkok and ferry to Koh Phangan (where we stayed for a month!) And then took the ferry to Koh Samui from Koh Phangan. Of the islands in the Gulf, Koh Samui is the only island with an airport.
Cost of travel in Koh Samui
Everything in Koh Samui has been imported, so the cost of travel in this part of Thailand is higher than the rest of Thailand… but it’s important to also note that Koh Samui tends to be cheaper than both Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. So if you’re wanting to visit a gorgeous gulf island, Koh Samui is for you.
But don’t worry, you’ll still be able to really enjoy yourself without breaking the bank in Koh Samui. There are plenty of hostels that cater to backpackers and bars always have drink promotions! Convenience stores dotted around the island will be more expensive than Bangkok (or anywhere in mainland Thailand) but like I said, still cheaper than other islands in the gulf.
The amazing thing about Koh Samui is that you can find incredible accommodation on a huge budget compared to other places in the Gulf of Thailand! And that leads us to… where to stay in Koh Samui.
Where to stay on Koh Samui
Koh Samui is one of the most developed islands that we visited while we were island hopping in Thailand. It’s more built-up than Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. But in my opinion, that means you can find some incredible accommodation in Koh Samui. In fact, the best accommodation we stayed at in Thailand was on Koh Samui.
Koh Samui caters more towards the grown-up clientele with a bit more cash to burn, but it still is so much cheaper than traveling in most of the world. So you can stay in gorgeous 5-star accommodation for the same price as a motel 6 in America. But you’re also able to get away from the ‘party’ and ‘backpacker’ hustle if you like.
If you’re reading this and you’re a backpacker, make a beeline for party hostels that line Chaweng beach! While those looking for peace and luxury (on a budget) will appreciate the quieter corners of Lamai and Mae Nam.
Getting around Koh Samui
Koh Samui is a small island, with most of the action taking place around Chaweng, Lamai and Mae Nam in the north. If you base yourself around any of these areas, you’ll be walking distance to most bars and restaurants, so getting around on foot is very easy. If you want to explore the rest of the island though, you have a couple of options.
First of course, you can take a taxi. But taking a taxi in any country is the most expensive option and that’s no different in Koh Samui. Your other options would be to take the minibus/trucks (called songthaew) that will take you almost anywhere around the island. The songthaew are pretty great to get you anywhere.
Then of course, you can rent a scooter. The first time I went to Koh Samui solo, I didn’t rent a scooter, I just took taxis and songthaew everywhere that I wanted to go. The second time when I came with my partner and we stayed in the north, we rented a scooter and it allowed us to go all over the island much easier.
I did learn while writing this post that motorbike accidents are the leading cause of death in Thailand, so please take that as your word of caution before taking the plunge. And always wear a helmet!
What to do in Koh Samui
Day 1: Explore the Island & Beach Hop
It’s your first day in Koh Samui. So you’re going to want to beach hop and explore the island. After checking into your hotel I recommend getting a scooter or taking a walk around the area. Find out what beaches are closest to you. Walk up to a viewpoint and explore the island!
Koh Samui has lots of great viewpoints (my favorite was Lamai viewpoint, a great walk from Lamai beach). No matter where you’re staying, find your nearest beach, 7-11 or Family mart and market. Then you’ll always know where you can stock up, eat and CHILL. Which is something you’re going to want to do plenty of on your trip.
(When I visit Lamai viewpoint in February 2022, I was the only guest they had the whole day)
Complete your tour exploring the famous landmarks with a trip to Koh Samui’s funniest landmark. Just beyond Lamai beach, you’ll find Hin Ta and Hin Yai (Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks), which resemble the female and male genitals. It’s true too! After having a laugh and taking a photo here, you’ll also find that this landmark has a gorgeous beach and bright blue ocean crashing into the shore.
From the rocks you can walk to Whale Bar and Cafe for a drink, and then a swim.
Day 2: Fisherman’s Village
The Fisherman’s Village in Bophut is one of the places that you have to visit. This unique spot offers a look into what the island was before the tourism which now fuels the island. Lined with a number of Chinese-style old wooden shophouses, boutique shops sell handmade clothes and handicrafts, as well as furniture and footwear. The waterway is also lined with restaurants and bars, which are perfect for catching the sunset.
Fisherman’s Village is the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs and gifts for your entire family. You can also take a swim, enjoy the beach, grab dinner and drink a sunset cocktail in this unique ‘village’ of Koh Samui!
Pro tip: Across the street from the entrance to Fisherman’s village is the coolest temple that I visited in Koh Samui! Just behind the police checkpoint, there’s a road that you might think is going nowhere… but really it’s leading you to this amazing temple, with a buddha sitting on a boat, in the middle of a moat. It’s really cool and you should definitely check it out while you’re exploring Fisherman’s Village. If you don’t have a scooter then this is an easy temple to walk to from Fisherman’s Village.
Day 3: Explore the temples
Koh Samui is bursting with Buddhist temples. You can find stunning architecture and see a mummified monk. The most well-known temple in Koh Samui is the Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) which you’ll see when you’re flying into Koh Samui.
Sitting on a little island, there’s a 12-meter-tall station of Buddha who’s made of gold. You can’t miss it, and as I said, it’s going to be the first thing you spot from the Koh Samui Airport.
If you want to see the mummified monk, you need to head to Wat Khunaram. Luong Pordaeng was a Buddhist monk who died in 1973 while seated in a meditative position. It was then decided that his body would be preserved and he has been on display in a glass case ever since. It’s quite normal to see mummified monks around Thailand, and this isn’t the only one in Koh Samui. But I was told that Luong Pordaeng is among one of the most highly revered.
While these are all amazing, my favorite temple in Koh Samui was Wat Ratchathammaram. You can easily walk here from Lamai beach, which is what I did on my first trip when I didn’t have a scooter. This temple is made of terracotta and depicted with lots of sea monsters and serpents. This temple is really cool, and I can promise you it’s worth a visit.
If you have a scooter, make sure to spend the day exploring multiple temples around Koh Samui.
Day 4: Get a massage
Ok getting a massage isn’t going to take the whole day. But go and get pampered! You deserve it. If you’re staying in the north around Mae Nam, I recommend getting massaged on the beach with Khwan massage. The ladies there take really good care of you!
If you’re staying in the south around Lamai, I can recommend that you get a massage at Fragrance Candle Massage. One of the best massages I’ve had in my life was at Fragrance Candle. They were so professional, kind, and honestly amazing.
There are places all over the island that will do an amazing massage. You won’t be disappointed.
So take your pick and have a day of pampering. After your massage make sure to relax by the pool or by the beach. Whatever you prefer, you are on holiday, after all, so you should probably do both.
Day 5: Take a day trip
One thing that you should do while you’re in Koh Samui is take a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. Ang Thong National Marine Park comprises 95 square miles of azure coast and karst inlets. Which in other words, means that it is STUNNING. The seascape is reason enough to visit Koh Samui, allowing you to get close to hawksbill turtles, Kulh’s stingrays and breathtaking coral reefs.
You can book a day trip from Koh Samui which usually includes lunch and snorkeling.
Once you’re back in Koh Samui, spend your evening in one of the night food markets eating pad thai, papaya salad and drinking a Leo. There’s a night market in every borough of Koh Samui, so no matter where you’re staying, this is a great way to get some great food and enjoy the island as the locals do!
Day 6: Waterfall Hunting
Sometimes you just need to have a day where you do nothing according to your itinerary. And that’s today. If you have a scooter, head out and explore the waterfalls and jungle of Koh Samui. It’s not a huge island. You can drive across the island, through the jungle, from Lamai to MaeNam in just about 30 minutes. Why not branch out and find a waterfall while you’re at it.
Yes this activity is going to be better if you have a scooter. But it’s not hard to find a lovely local with a cab who’s willing to take you to their favorite waterfalls.
Day 7: Preparing to leave
You’re likely headed off on your way today. And that could mean leaving in the morning… see ya! Or that could mean the afternoon or evening (like we did). If you have the morning or afternoon before you leave, make sure that you take advantage of the beach/pool before you leave. Really, the beaches in Koh Samui are AMAZING.
Safety in Koh Samui
The first time I went to Koh Samui I was traveling alone, and the second time I traveled with my partner. Even when I was in Koh Samui alone, I felt very safe. Quite honestly I felt very safe across Thailand as a solo traveler.
If you are traveling, especially alone, just take the normal precautions that you would take traveling alone anywhere. Don’t ride a scooter if you don’t feel safe, it can be very dangerous. And just make sure that you’re looking after yourself. The local people across Thailand are incredible and I’ve never felt so welcomed.
Oh and don’t forget to wear your helmet!
Ready to book your trip to Thailand? Let’s go! If you have any questions, come hang out with me on Instagram → @justynjen. I’m happy to help you plan your trip and answer any questions that you have over there!
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